Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
Voices for Tolerance

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

The Puritan Revolution

The most significant voices for liberty of conscience and freedom of religion in the period emerged in England during the Puritan Revolution (1640-1660). Though the three kingdoms of the British Isles—England, Scotland and Ireland—witnessed political and military conflict, a struggle that ensued from the collapse of the rule and religious policies of Charles I, one of the byproducts was a vigorous debate on the principle of toleration. The Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell attempted to bring about toleration for many persecuted Protestant sects. He also granted toleration and readmission of the Jews into England; they had been expelled by royal edict in 1290.


The emergence of democratic or "Leveller" ideas in the Puritan army in the mid- 1640s was accompanied by the clearest articulation of the argument for religious toleration and freedom of conscience. One of the most original of the Levellers was William Walwyn whose numerous works argued against a state church and advocated liberty of conscience for all religions.


Another Leveller leader was Richard Overton, who demanded religious liberty for all of England, including Catholics and Jews. Overton called for the release of the oft-imprisoned activist John Lilburne, who held that religious dissention was the work of the devil and the only path toward peace and harmony was through granting complete freedom of conscience.

William Walwyn. Tolleration Justified, and persecution condemn'd. London, 1646.

Richard Overton. A remonstrance of many thousand citizens. London, 1646

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623